BALTIMORE – Southern Baptists say that unlike other church bodies, their denomination will not waver on its stance on gay marriage or be harmed by debate on the issue.
In a panel discussion Tuesday at the Southern Baptist Convention's two-day annual meeting, a group of Southern Baptist leaders, including Dr. Albert Mohler, stated that the SBC should maintain their opposition to homosexuality and gay marriage.
Mohler, president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, told The Christian Post that the "Southern Baptist Convention has this clearly as a matter of conviction; it was put into our confession of faith as revised in just the year 2000."
"In this generation, I have no fear that the Southern Baptists are going to be equivocal or confused on that issue," he stressed. "But for generations to come, well that's our challenge. We're going to have to work very hard as we look at the generations to follow."
Matt Chandler, president of Acts 29 Ministries and panel participant, told CP that whatever debate that could have befallen the SBC on homosexuality was resolved back in the 1980s with the conservative ascendancy in the denomination.
He said he doesn't believe the homosexuality debate would harm the SBC as it has other denominations such as The Episcopal Church and the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), because of "the fight that occurred in the 80s over the inerrancy of Scripture. So I think that that fight has led to this next one being if anything a skirmish."
The panel on Tuesday, sponsored by various entities including assorted Southern Baptist seminaries, LifeWay, Ministry Grid, and the Gospel Project, focused on various pressing issues for the SBC.
In addition to Mohler and Chandler, the other panelists were Danny Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary; David Platt, pastor at the Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, Alabama; and Dr. Thom Rainer, president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources.
Panelists spoke about the need to approach those in the congregation with homosexual impulses with love and acceptance, while maintaining the Bible's stance on sexual ethics.
Before the large audience gathered at the Baltimore Convention Center, Platt explained the need to create welcoming space for members of a congregation who struggle with same-sex attraction.
"If you don't think there are people in your congregation that are struggling with this, you're foolish and let your assistant pastor preach until you dial in a bit," said Platt. "We must humanize ... if you don't do that, then no one is going to feel compassion."
Other issues touched upon by the panelists included the recent report on declining baptisms among teenagers and young adults, how to handle a sexual abuse complaint within one's church, and what Rainer dubbed the SBC's "evangelism problem."
Rainer explained to those gathered at the ballroom that while the decline could in part be traced to fewer churches reporting their numbers for this year, the SBC "should not take comfort" in that as the explanation. "There's certainly other factors," said Rainer. "The reality, folks, is this: we are reaching less people for Christ. There can be almost no doubt about that."
"I do think that we have an evangelism problem and I think [when] we have an evangelism problem, we have a theological problem because our theology should drive us, compel us, to share the Good News of Jesus Christ."
Mohler told CP that the "evangelism problem" has to first be dealt at the local church level.
"It's a situation that we should expect to have arrived with the secularization of America progressing as it is," he added. "We should expect that that task is going to get harder and harder. And that being the case, we're going to have to learn how to be more capable in more difficult times."
Chandler believes the "evangelism problem" was derived in large part from a "quasi-loss of confidence" among Christian evangelists.
"There's an immense amount of pressure that I think believers feel to be really good at apologetics and to be able to answer all the questions," said Chandler. "And so I think people are hesitant to share the Gospel because they feel they can't answer all the questions."